Finding it held by the Japanese, he and a fellow officer swam to an adjacent island, where they persuaded the inhabitants to send a message to their colleagues, who soon rescued them.
Kennedy later commented on his reputation as a war hero: "It was involuntary," he declared. "They sank my boat."
[A Japanese destroyer cut Kennedy's boat in half, killing two of his men. Kennedy swam for hours while pulling one of his injured men (and doing considerable damage to his back). Eventually Kennedy and his crew reached a small island, where, after five days with little food or water, they met some helpful locals. The men were finally rescued after Kennedy carved an S.O.S. in a coconut and had the islanders deliver it to the American base by canoe.]